Traditional Asian medicine looks to balance chi (the life force energy flowing through the energy channels) by keeping the opposing forces, yin and yang, functioning in harmony. The concepts of environment, seasonal changes, the elements, and the meridians are all considered in the pursuit of good health. The relationship between these elements must remain stable for continuous vitality.
The constant force that is shared is the electrical energy of life, the ebb and flow of our essence, as we exist in rhythmic partnership with our environment. Reflexology works toward the goal of homeostasis, and the meridians that run through the body are a connection with the electromagnetic field.
Reflexology and the Meridians
Reflexology and acupuncture are two modalities that base a central focus of their work around the concept of energy channels. Both believe there are specific pathways through which energy travels and that by manipulating these paths, blockages that could cause disease can be prevented.
While acupuncture points are found all over the body, reflexology points are on the feet and reflected on the hands. By using pressure that disperses congestion along the energy pathways, the molecules can flow freely, encouraging wellness.
The meridians run vertically through the body, beginning or ending in either the hands or feet. Reflexology affects the meridians, as many of the reflexes are actually on meridian lines. These energetic pathways connect with the systems of the body. An obstruction along a meridian may disrupt the function of organs found on that channel. Six meridians run on the legs — three yin and three yang. Six more run on the arms with the same divisions.
Foot reflexology works with six of the main meridians. These are each connected to a specific organ. The energy of these, and all, meridians moves continuously. Yang energy comes from the sun and yin energy flows from the earth. The movement of this energy along the channels is from one meridian to another in a steady flow. Some studies have connected meridians with nerve pathways; others point out that the transparent liquid that moves along the pathways functions as a nerve.
Meridians are part of an overall system of healing known as acupuncture. These energy lines are also found in other healing systems such as shiatsu, acupressure, and reflexology. The meridian system has 100 meridians and connections. There are twelve standard meridians that are connected to one another by organs and are bilaterally symmetrical. Two vessel meridians are also involved.
There are many thoughts and theories surrounding meridian work, which dates back over 3,000 years. The concept of energy flow is consistent throughout all analysis of this healing work. Meridians run through the body with connections to organs and the overall structure. The flow is constant, with chi moving through in a never-ending cycle of two-hour periods, and each two-hour unit is linked with a meridian and its organ.
The Twelve Standard Meridians and the Two Vessels
The twelve meridians are affiliated in a 24-hour cycle. The energy follows a pathway through both sides of the body. The two vessels that are most often used with these twelve meridians run along the middle line of the body, in the front and the back. These two vessels divide the body and balance the meridians. The twelve standard meridians and the two vessels are as follows:
Large intestine meridian
Small intestine meridian
Triple Burner/endocrine meridian
The Six Meridians of the Feet
There are six meridians represented in the feet, specifically the toes. Using a basic knowledge of the meridians during reflexology, a giver can have a better understanding of a receiver's condition. The meridians of feet are the spleen/pancreas, the liver, the stomach, the gallbladder, the kidney, and the bladder.
The stomach meridian starts under the eye, curves along the face and up to the temple, then continues down the body and ends on top of the second toe. This is a yang meridian with earth energy. Meridians are related to elements that are the varied qualities of chi energy. The elements are known as fire, earth, water, metal, and wood. A yin and yang meridian is paired to each element, except for the element of fire, which has two pairs of meridians.
Although a pain or disorder may appear on the feet, often the cause is elsewhere in the body. The relationship along these energy channels presents a deeper, yet simple, explanation. The basic premise is that everything influences everything.
The spleen/pancreas meridian, which works in partnership with the stomach meridian, starts at the tip of the big toe, runs up the leg, turns in at the pelvis, goes up the side of the abdomen, and ends in the shoulder. This is a yin meridian with earth energy.
The functions of the spleen and stomach pathways work in relationship.
The stomach deals with digestion, then passes the energy of the food to the pancreas and spleen. The spleen takes the energy and works it into the blood and the chi. Many believe the stomach to be one of the root causes of upsets throughout the body. The stomach meridian is the channel that actually touches all the major organs. Stomach problems are often reflected elsewhere in the body.
The kidney meridian begins on the sole directly in the solar plexus reflex under the center of the ball of the foot. The path runs along the inside of the leg and thigh up to the bladder area, past the navel and breastbone, and ends on the sternum side of the clavicle. Changes in this meridian can indicate kidney and/or circulation irregularities. This is a yin meridian with water energy. The kidney pathway works in partnership with the bladder meridian.
The bladder meridian starts at the inner corner of the eye and runs up and over the skull, dividing into two strands at the back of the neck. The strands run down as parallel lines along the entire back to the coccyx area. From the coccyx, one strand of the pathway continues through to the heel and ends on the little toe. The other strand ends in the hollow of the knee. Changes in this meridian may denote painful conditions such as headaches, rheumatic pains, sciatica, and eczema. This is a yang meridian with water energy.
Meridians and reflexes often cross paths. Reflexology includes the stimulation of points along meridian lines. Zones connect with meridians throughout a reflexology session, giving further explanation to problem areas that have manifested on the feet.
The liver meridian begins in the leg and works in conjunction with the gallbladder and lung meridians. The liver meridian receives energy from the gallbladder line and transmits it to the lung pathway. This line starts between the first and second toe, runs along the inside of the leg, past the groin and bladder, touches the ribs, and ends in the chest. Changes in this meridian may be indicated by jaundice, fatigue, swelling of the liver, intestinal disorders, allergies, and headaches. This is a yin pathway associated with the element wood.
The gallbladder meridian is the last of the meridians in the feet. This meridian begins at the outer eye and runs through the temple to the back to the top of the pelvis and along the outside of the leg to the fourth toe. Congestion along this meridian may be associated with acute and chronic pain. The disorders affiliated with the gallbladder pathway are migraines, teeth and ear pain, jaw pain, pain in the lower limbs, and neuralgia. This is a yang meridian connected with the wood element.